A plane carrying three Americans released by North Korea landed at a military base bear Washington early on Thursday to be welcomed by U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania.
North Korea released the three – Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, and Kim Hak-song – and handed them over to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang on Wednesday, clearing a major obstacle to an unprecedented summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump and First Lady Melania walked up the stairs to board the plane after it landed at Joint Base Andrews, a military base outside Washington DC, at around 2.40 a.m.
They emerged a few minutes later with the three former detainees to the cheers of watching military personnel. All three former prisoners smiled. Two lifted their arms above head with and made “V for victory” signs.
“Special night for these three really great people,” Trump said. “The fact that we were able to get them out so soon was really a tribute to a lot of people including a certain process that’s taking place right now.”
Referring to the possibility of reaching a denuclearization deal with North Korea, Trump said: “We will see if we can do something that people did not think was going to happen for many, many years and a lot of bad things could have happened in between.”
“My proudest achievement will be – this is part of it – when we denuclearize that entire peninsula,” he said, adding that he really believed the Kim Jong Un wanted to bring his country “into the real world.”
“We very much appreciate that he allowed them to go before the meeting,” he said. “It’s a very important thing to all of us.
“I think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful,” Trump said of the planned summit.
SAUL LOEB | AFP | Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (L) applauds as US detainee Kim Dong-chul (2nd R) gestures upon his return with Kim Hak-song (C) and Tony Kim (behind) after they were freed by North Korea, at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on May 10, 2018.